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Blog #5 continued..
Ever wonder why your neighbor’s petunia baskets are still so full and vibrant on labour day weekend while yours are long and lanky? Maybe Secret Gardens is maintaining them :) ? Or maybe your neighbor just knows the secret of cutting back.
Actually taking some of the length off of the plant will promote branching giving you a tighter and more floriferous arrangement. Also called pinching this can be done throughout the season as well, I generally do it every couple of weeks. As plant mommies and daddies it may seem cruel and hard to do but trust me your babies will love you for it. It is not too late now to cut them back by half as they will only take a week to fill out.
Disease and Insects
Always start off your planters with healthy plants and buy them from a reputable nursery will help insure that. But even the best nurseries experience pest problems from time to time. Also pests can come from other parts of your or your neighbor’s garden and attack your container plants.
Aphids, spider mite and whitefly are the common culprits and can feed on your plants leaving them with puckered and discolored leaves and flowers. I find a simple spray of soapy biologically safe insecticide will take care of them. Remember to spray under the leaves as this is where the mites and whitefly like to hang out. Do this one a week when you see them and in between sprays you can give them a good shot with a steady stream of water from the hose to knock them off – they hate that.
White fly and eggs on the undersides of the leaves.
Spidermite - look for the fine webbing as the mites are very hard to see.
Aphid casings and green aphids on million bells.
Some seasons like this year have brought us rain followed by lots of heat with humidity. This can lead to fungus attacking our annuals. I had a problem with powdery mildew this year on my verbena.
A good fix for this, although a stinky one, is a spray of sulfur based products such as Defender. You can also help combat fungus problems with proper water techniques like watering the pot and not the leaves and by watering in the morning.
Swap Out the Nasty
Despite our best efforts some plants just don’t last for the long haul into fall. It is fairly easy just to take out the offender and replace it with a cold hardy annual or a perennial to extend the life of the pot. If your pot is root bound you can take a sharp serrated knife and cut it out to minimize the disturbance to the rest of the plant roots. This is a great time to introduce those pretty chrysanthemums that are budding out in the nurseries.
Pinching back this Persian Shield will make a tighter, more attractive plant.
On behalf of your hard working summer containers, I beg you to take time to cutback, fertilize, deadhead and refresh them as needed to make your investment last well into the fall!